Kim Jong Un labels S Korea as ‘principal enemy,’ boasts war readiness

The North is ready to ‘devastate’ the South if the latter contemplates use of force or poses a threat, Kim says.
By Lee Jeong-Ho for RFA
2024.01.09
Seoul, South Korea
Kim Jong Un labels S Korea as ‘principal enemy,’ boasts war readiness North Korean leader Kim Jong Un visits a munitions factory at an undisclosed location on Jan. 10, 2024.
KCNA via Reuters

The North Korean leader Kim Jong Un has declared that South Korea is now officially Pyongyang’s “principal enemy,” openly stating his readiness for war – as foreign ministers from 48 countries issued a joint statement warning that the threat posed by North Korea extends well beyond the Korean peninsula.

“The ROK scums are our principal enemy,” Kim proclaimed, referring to South Korea’s formal name, as cited by North Korea’s official Korean Central News Agency Wednesday. “While we will not unilaterally decide on a major upheaval in the Korean peninsula through the overwhelming force of ours, we also have no intention of avoiding war,” he warned.

Speaking during his two-day inspection of a military factory that began on Monday, the North Korean leader reaffirmed his commitment to the ongoing development of nuclear capabilities. “In response to a hostile nation that is adopting an aggressive stance towards us, and actively strengthening its military power, our top priorities must be to enhance our self-defensive national defense capabilities and to reinforce our nuclear deterrence against war.”

Calling the South’s Yoon Suk Yeol administration a “self-destructive” and “gangster regime,” Kim added: “If the ROK dares to contemplate the use of force against our nation, or threatens our sovereignty and safety, we will not hesitate to mobilize all means and capabilities at our disposal to completely devastate the ROK.”

Kim’s seemingly emotional comments come as the Yoon administration has been implementing a hardline policy towards Pyongyang, with his conservative government openly vowing to proceed with reciprocal responses to Pyongyang’s military provocations. 

For instance, when North Korea launched some 200 artillery shells into waters off its western coast near South Korea’s Baengnyeong and Yeonpyeong islands Friday, Seoul conducted “naval fire” drills to reciprocate the provocation.

On Monday, the South’s Joint Chiefs of Staff also officially declared that the maritime buffer zone with North Korea no longer exists, setting a precondition for Seoul and Washington to conduct reconnaissance operations near the border – a move that has been strongly protested by Pyongyang.

Yang Moo-jin, a professor at the University of North Korean Studies in Seoul who had advised South Korean administrations, sees Kim’s emphasis on strengthening nuclear war deterrence capabilities as an open acknowledgment that its nuclear weapons are being targeted at South Korea.

“The declaration of a willingness to completely devastate ROK in the event of a war is not just a strategic position but also a calculated move to foster animosity towards Seoul. This serves as a tool to justify and legitimize the enhancement of Pyongyang’s military capability,” Yang said.

As Kim escalated tensions on the Korean peninsula on Wednesday, foreign ministers from 48 countries – including South Korea, the United States, Japan, the United Kingdom, and Ukraine – issued a joint statement, expressing their growing concern that the threat from Pyongyang has extended beyond the peninsula.

Last week, the White House announced that Russia has been using Pyongyang-supplied ballistic missiles in Ukraine, highlighting the repercussions of the conflict in Europe as well as the security implications for the Korean peninsula.

“We condemn in the strongest possible terms the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea’s (DPRK) export and Russia’s procurement of DPRK ballistic missiles, as well as Russia’s use of these missiles against Ukraine on December 30, 2023, and January 2, 2024,” the joint statement said Wednesday, referring to North Korea’s formal name.

“We urge all UN Member States, including all members of the United Nations Security Council, to join us in condemning Russia and the DPRK’s flagrant UNSCR violations,” the statement added.

“As Russia launches waves of missiles and drones against the Ukrainian people, we will continue to stand together in support of Ukraine. We further call on the DPRK to respond to the numerous and genuine offers to return to diplomacy, the only path to an enduring peace on the Korean Peninsula.” 

Edited by Elaine Chan and Taejun Kang

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